Sunday, the day of the week where you can laze around in your pajamas and not give a toss. All in the name of preparing for the week ahead, many glasses of wine are drank. It’s also the day TV execs decide to air costume dramas because they know you’ll be too idle to change the channel. Clever bastards.
When else would we want to watch a show about the upper classes of yesteryear fainting at the sight of naked ankles? You’d have to be half drunk or at your Gran’s.
Each episode begins with an establishing shot of a National Trust property or listed building followed by scene-after-scene of countryside and stately home interiors, whilst progressing from dull to an ‘I’d rather go out and photograph post boxes’ level of boring. That’s pretty much the all that happens in a costume drama: Downton Abbey, Poldark, Doctor Thorne, and whatever Austen or Brontë adaptation is around. No matter the number of times a character throws up blood or chucks a dead cat on the table, you will never get your Sunday evening back.
Pretty scenery is everywhere to distract us from realising that each character is actually a walking talking prop with only one purpose. His Lordship and her Ladyship, exist to make demands and pout. The Head Butler is nothing more than a dickhead ‘Yes Man.’ An elderly countess walks around with a permanent scowl. Tweed clad Americans-usually carrying shotguns-are full of bluster. If a working class character appears all they do is growl or spout gobbledygook. Interesting or accurate representations of human beings probably got lost in one of the gardens labyrinths but at least the flowerbeds look lovely.
A plot is also set aside in favour of the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen of the realm, sitting around talking and ringing servants bells. That’s all they do, sit and chat about the weather or what the viscount down the road has been up to. Dave never tells Gideon about his offshore accounts, and Gideon forgets how much he gets from the family business. For their part, the servants are happy to bend their knee to the whims of their gold-shitting overlords. It’s like the whole point of a costume drama is to showcase Britain according to a Daily Mail reader.
The strangest ‘must have’ scenes of every costume drama, is the grandiose party where all attendees only communicate non-verbally. His Lord and her Ladyship go around nodding and tutting, whilst the butler frantically gestures for someone-anyone-to clean up the spilt champagne. No one does. One of the guests slips in the champagne, and is sent sliding across the floor, knocking over other guests along the way. It would be a miracle if anything so exciting should happen, a cameo from the Triumvirate of Evil (Lord Rothermere, Richard Littlejohn and Katie Hopkins) would be much more likely.
Costume dramas as a whole are a surreal classist, elitist fantasy chronicling the boring stupidly rich. They’re the Daily Mail’s wet dream, a world where the Lord of the manor is superior in everyway and the poor know their place. They’re a Conservative Party political broadcast.